I waited to write this post until after Sacramento. Catching Utah in Utah on the second night of a back-to-back didn’t seem fair, so I said, “Hey Ceej — why not wait until after Sacramento at home to write your cute little column. This way, you can talk about the team really finding its identity as a gritty, grind-it-out, bring-your-lunch-pail-and-steel-toed-shoes-to-work kind of team. I mean, I do know that it’s a 3rd game in 4 nights, and I also know that it’s that generally-deflating first game back home after a West-coast road-trip (like all our boys are frazzled from lying to their at-homes about what happened on the trip) — but I mean, it’s Sacramento. They have 8 wins. And Evans has been out with injuries. And DeMarcus Cousins takes terrible shots. And it’s not like Beno Udrih is going to beat ya.”
Obviously, I was a little misguided (both in what I was saying, and in the fact that I had this lengthy conversation with, umm, myself)… (not misguided about Cousins though — the kid is SO talented, but half of his shots just plain suck). Apparently, the Knicks are still in that realm of inconsistency where a crappy crappy team can outplay them in a 3rd-game-in-4-nights situation. Exhibit A: Cleveland in Cleveland at the end of Dream Week (a Disney World promotion). Exhibit B: Sacramento at home last Friday. Combined current wins: 17. This means that if the two teams played both of their starting lineups at the same time, they still should be 5 wins shittier than the Knicks. (Please note that this is not actually what this means).
So we threw out the Sacramento game and Felton’s 2 of 15 shooting. We tried to continue to focus on the road trip — a road trip that was a truly meaningful success. Blowing out Phoenix, playing with the Lake Show on a night that they gave a rat’s ass, and beating Portland at the Rose Garden showed a maturity that we hadn’t yet seen from these Knicks. These Knicks started to seem like they could beat almost any team on any given night. And they now had a decent win on the road. (One Step Forward).
Then came a long flight home, and jet-lag, and Sacramento. And then Phoenix. Phoenix, who may tout the nerdiest rotation in the NBA (try to find me a nerdier 3-player-combination than Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat, Channing “My name is Shannon” Frye, and Robin Lopez — no nickname necessary). Though much cooler than the Suns, the Knicks just did not get it done defensively. Bad rotations on PHX’s drive ‘n’ kick game left Vince Carter and the aforementioned Frye like Wal-Mart from behind the 3-point-line (open all day) (see what I did there…). When the help-defense rotations didn’t come (i.e. when Amar’e got into foul trouble), the Suns just burnt up the middle. They scored 58 points in the paint. That’s a lot. (Two Steps Back).
At least 4 of these points came from the ugliest sweeping hook shots a person has ever put up. The person that put them up was Robin Lopez, and I have since submitted a request to the league that all future Robin Lopez hook shot makes be immediately refuted. I can’t stand for a league where a one-handed wacky jack (a la P90X) is allowed to stand as a made field goal.
More than ever, on that day, we needed Ronny Turiaf. And we needed the hammer down. Get well Ronny, and if by the impossible chance you happen to be reading this, here is your Knicks weekly:
Point Taken: According to Mitch Lawrence of The Daily News, Ray-Ray has made just 25% of his field goals in his last 3 games. His last five splits look as so: @ Lakers – 4/14, @ Portland – 7/16, @ Utah – 6/15, Sacramento – 2/15, and Phoenix – 3/13. Aside from his solid performance at the Rose Garden, Felton’s shooting has been atrocious (his 2/15 klunker v. Sacramento was low-lighted by Beno Udrih destroying him/the whole Knicks team on the other end). What I think is happening: teams continue to go under screens on the pick ‘n’ roll, and Felts has stopped making them pay. For most of the season, he’s been pretty consistent with that straight-on, top-of-the-key 3 over the screen and his off-the-dribble mid-range 2. Now, the NBA Jam commentators might have a few “he can’t a buy a bucket”s for him. Hopefully, it’s just a shooting slump, and not retrogression to his first 4 years in Charlotte (where each year he shot under 42%. As in 42% total. Not just from 3 (bad.).) Essentially, it also hurts the pick ‘n’ roll for Amar’e, as guys are flocking under screens to him, which means less easy buckets, which was how the Knicks got in trouble in the 1st place at the beginning of this year. The moral of the story: as Raymond goes, so goes the Knicks. So here’s to praying that his lines stop looking like my 8th-grade geometry quizzes and start looking like the number of dentists that recommend Trident. (and yes, that was the best I could come up with) #fail.
Bill & Shawne’s Excellent Adventure: Is it lazy or honorable that I refused to look up the name of the 2nd movie? Probably both. Either way, it should be noted briefly that with Bill Walker’s and Shawne Williams’ 20-point-games in Utah, now a total of 8 Knicks players have scored at least 20 points in a game. Amar’e, Ray-Ray, Gallo, Wilson Chandler, TD, Bill Walker, Shawne Williams, and our best friend Landry Fields have all cracked the 20-point-barrier at least once this year. Six of the eight are either scrap-heap guys or Knicks draft picks. Somewhere Donnie Walsh just mouthed the words “damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.”
Techies: Yes, the new technical rules can be ridiculous at times. And yes, it is extremely strange that a system that rescinds/”oops, my bads” its technicals at such a high rate is not considered completely broken. But either way, how about this, let’s just stop getting them. First off, it’s free effing points for the other team. We give away enough free points in the lane when Amar’e is in foul trouble, there’s no reason to give them away otherwise. Secondly, (and I’m talking to you Bill Walker) stop sarcastically clapping at ref’s calls. You’ve gotten T’ed up for it, you’ve watched teammates get T’ed up for it. It’s not even that clever. Just walk away. Please. For the sake of my evening heartburn.
What’s next: Another tough road trip with games at Houston, at San Antonio (and they don’t look happy), and at Oklahoma City (also not too fond of us). The Houston game is important, if only to make last year’s Jared Jeffries-salary-dump deal just a little crappier for Houston (which essentially could be 2 late 1st rounders, JJ, and Jordan Hill for the space that turned into Raymond Felton). Then we have Washington and Miami at MSG, at Hot-lanta, and home versus Detroit to close out the month. If we can take 4 of our next seven, we’ll finish above .500 for the 3rd straight month. Just to put it in perspective, the 2009-2010 New York Knickerbockers finished just 1 month above .500 (I was just as shocked as you were — 9 and 6 in December of ’09).
Knicks Vid of the Week: I’ve recently started yelling “The Sound and The Fury” whenever Ill Will dunks. No, it does not make any sense.